Safety Tips Driving safety Seasonal safety: Winter

Black ice: A hazard for drivers

icy road

Photo: samiylenko/iStock/Thinkstock

Incidents involving motor vehicles are the leading cause of work-related deaths, according to the 2013 edition of the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts.” During the winter, one hazard to be mindful of when behind the wheel is black ice. Black ice – which can be almost invisible – forms when the air temperature is warmer than pavement, which causes moisture to rapidly freeze and create a thin, transparent layer of ice on the roadway.

To help avoid an incident, the Minnesota Departments of Transportation and Public Safety recommend observing the following tips:

  • Be especially careful when driving on bridges, overpasses and tunnels, and in the early morning when the air temperature rises faster than the pavement temperature.
  • Never brake while driving on ice. Applying pressure to your brakes while on black ice will cause a vehicle to skid. Brake only during your approach.
  • Keep your distance. The distance needed to stop on black ice is twice as long as for normal driving circumstances. Keep at least a three-car distance behind the vehicle in front of you.
  • Salting and sanding can neutralize black ice. However, drivers should be aware that salt loses its effectiveness at about 15° F or colder.